Soothing a Sunburn

What is the best thing to put on my child’s sunburn to help soothe it and promote healing?

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Dr. Greene’s Answer:

With sunburn or any other burn, there can be ongoing damage as long as the skin is hot, so cooling off is wise, such as in a lukewarm bath. Some dermatologists recommend cold milk on the skin to help soothe the pain. Once you’ve cooled off, the greatest ongoing damage comes from the skin drying out, so a soothing moisturizer is good for as long as the burn lasts. I like using one with Aloe Vera in it. Cool compresses are great, followed by moisturizer containing aloe and/or vitamin E oil.

As for the “caine” remedies for sunburn pain, I’m not a big fan. They can cause allergic reactions and don’t work all that well.

I like ibuprofen for the pain. It works best when the pain is caused by inflammation (red, tender, hot, or swollen tissue.) It is anti-inflammatory so it stops the pain at the site of the inflammation. Acetaminophen can work instead or in addition, but it does not help inflammation. It just works at the pain centers in the brain.

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Dr. Alan Greene

Dr. Greene is the founder of DrGreene.com (cited by the AMA as “the pioneer physician Web site”), a practicing pediatrician, father of four, & author of Raising Baby Green & Feeding Baby Green. He appears frequently in the media including such venues as the The New York Times, the TODAY Show, Good Morning America, & the Dr. Oz Show.

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